The Dan Campbell Experiment Will Either Go Really Well or Really Poorly for Detroit

On occasion, TVG takes a few moments to write about the teams in the NFC North that aren’t the Vikings. The division, after all, represents the immediate competitive context for the Vikes. The recent news about the Detroit Lions is too good to pass up, so my hope is that you’ll forgive this Minnesota Vikings writer for turning his attention to the Knee-Biters in the North.

Yesterday, my good friend and fellow writer Mimir sent me a message about everyone’s favorite non-Viking coach: Dan Campbell. Mimir suggested that Campbell wants to bring an actual lion to Detroit as some sort of weird motivation tactic. There was even some mention of giving one of his arms to the lion if the Lions win the Super Bowl, which strikes me as a bold yet safe bet.

Now, it’s not my habit to doubt what Mimir has to say. I wouldn’t have gotten him to take the lead on TVG‘s Moron’s Guide to Football if I thought that he was, well, a moron. I tend to trust him, but this was odd news, so I decided to do a brief bit of digging to confirm what he was telling me. It turns out that Dan Campbell does indeed want a real lion to help him motivate his players.

Here is what Campbell wants: “Just a legit pet lion on a chain, a big ass chain, and he really is my pet. We just walk around the building, we go out to practice, we’re at 7-on-7, we’re behind the kicker when he’s kicking.” He even approached team ownership to ask. That must have been an odd conversation.

Allow me to explain that I’m generally in favor of outside-the-box strategies for motivating players (as long they’re ethical and humane). I coach high school football, and I think that it’s probably fair to say that essentially every football coach at every level is continually trying to figure out ways to get the most of their players. The real-life lion, though, is a weird one. I know it’s not a lion in The Walking Dead, but it does evoke memories of King Ezekiel.

Campbell goes on to explain that if a position group is doing poorly in practice, he’d allow the lion to “take a dump right there in the middle of where their section is.” Full disclosure: my experience taming lions is limited. Nevertheless, I’m skeptical of someone who claims that they can not only have a lion on a leash, but also train it to poop on command and in a precise location. Perhaps Campbell knows something I don’t.

Finally, Campbell made comments about being willing to feed his arm to the lion if the Lions win the Super Bowl. It’s an eye-catching headline, but one that is likely pretty safe. Those Lions (the team, not the animal) will be lucky to get beyond four or five wins, so the SB promises seem basically meaningless.

If Dan Campbell ends up succeeding as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, I’ll be pleasantly surprised even though it will come at the expense of our Minnesota Vikings. From what I can gather, though, the Campbell experiment will end up going really poorly for Detroit.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 18, 2021.